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Not really a review, but an observation of NEXT

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lmg70 Apr 8, 2011 06:07 AM

I am not talented enough to write a review that will do NEXT justice - but I will say that the experience is truly incredible. From the moment you walk in until you leave, you just know that you've experienced something unique.

This really isn't a review but more or less an observation - a debriefing of sorts.

That Team Achatz can create a high-end dining experience for $70 a person (we went Thursday night at 6), is amazing. The servers are approachable, knowledgeable about the food and history and attentive. Unlike other "fancy restaurants", at Next you actually hear people talking, hear utensils hitting the plates and glass clinking. This is high end dining for the masses - and I mean that in the most complimentary way.

Having just returned from a trip to Spain and eating in some incredible restaurants in San Sebastian (more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere else in the world) and Bareclona (Alikimia is a must), I was anxious to see NEXT would compare. It not only matched the food - but exceeded it with atmosphere and quality of ingredients.

I won't go course by course - I will let someone more versed in food do that, but I will say that the pressed duck was the showstopper. Tender and meaty with a sauce made of cognac and juices from the duck, that course was the one that people will talk about. But equally impressive - and usually harder to pull off - was the dessert course with a cold bombe ceylan with hints of rum and chocolate cookie.

There were also some surprises - especially with the hors d'oeuvres course - so I won't ruin it but expect a surprise with the quail egg.

Again -- food alone doesn't make a great dining experience, it's the atmosphere. At NEXT, they have not only nailed the food but they have nailed the experience. We are fortunate to have them in our city.

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  1. g
    GastronomyGoddess RE: lmg70 Apr 8, 2011 06:47 AM

    LMG70: I think you have hit on something, which is oftentimes considered a dining faux pas in high-end restaurants, but something that does set Next apart from the El Bulli's of the world -- the vivaciousness of the restaurant itself. A dining experience is just that -- an experience-- not merely the quality or the palatability of the food. A Chef --in this case, Grant Achatz-- is aware that all senses, not only tastebuds, are on high alert, and he is going to excite and play with each and every one of them. As I was also impressed last night with the energy of the staff and patrons, I agree wholeheartedly with your observation (however, I would also appreciate your round-up of the choice of cuisine). In my opinion, the clinking glasses, the utensils dinging the plates, and the rumble of people talking and laughing are signs of revelry and good times. Not only did Grant and his team find success in bringing the richness and flavors from that time period back to life, but as I overheard a patron last night mention as she clinked her glass in delight, I also think that he channeled the vitality of the bourgeois exceptionally well.

    11 Replies
    1. re: GastronomyGoddess
      l
      lmg70 RE: GastronomyGoddess Apr 8, 2011 07:12 AM

      @gg: i think the staff really added to the experience. It was professional without being stuffy. I'm anxious to return for the next menu..

      1. re: GastronomyGoddess
        c
        Combination RE: GastronomyGoddess Apr 8, 2011 10:54 AM

        "...something that does set Next apart from the El Bulli's of the world -- the vivaciousness of the restaurant itself. "

        Next has been open for a couple of days. That kind of comparison is just slightly premature, don't you think?

        Hype, hype, hype...

        1. re: Combination
          chicgail RE: Combination Apr 8, 2011 11:39 AM

          Have you been there yet, Combination?
          Gastronomy Goddess has been there and her post was part of her observation, not something written by the restaurant or it's PR folks. Do you have a different observation from your own experience?

          1. re: chicgail
            c
            Combination RE: chicgail Apr 8, 2011 01:12 PM

            :"Have you been there yet, Combination?
            Gastronomy Goddess has been there and her post was part of her observation, not something written by the restaurant or it's PR folks. Do you have a different observation from your own experience?"

            I don't even live in Chicago, but I've been to Alinea.

            Yes, I do realize it was the patron's observation, and not the merchant's. And I'll repeat myself - to compare a restaurant that's been open for 2 days to El Bulli is just a little bit on the pretentious side. Next has enough hype already, if you understand what I mean.

            How about you? Have you been yet?

            -----
            Alinea
            1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

            1. re: Combination
              chicgail RE: Combination Apr 8, 2011 02:38 PM

              Not yet but I'll report when I do. I think all of us who have eaten at Alinea have very high expectations.

              -----
              Alinea
              1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

              1. re: chicgail
                huiray RE: chicgail Apr 10, 2011 05:22 AM

                I'll wait for the "glamor" and the "in-place right now to go to and/or to be seen" hoo-ha to die down before I go. The hawking of tickets - for up to $3000 (http://chicago.eater.com/archives/201...) turns me stone cold. Including the management's/ownership's seeming toleration, if not encouragement, of the black market scalping.

                1. re: huiray
                  h
                  HoosierFoodie RE: huiray Apr 10, 2011 08:06 AM

                  Where have you seen that they are encouraging scalping? Everything I've read indicates that they are in no way encouraging this practice?

                  1. re: HoosierFoodie
                    huiray RE: HoosierFoodie Apr 10, 2011 08:53 AM

                    I said, "...seeming toleration, if not encouragement..."

                    To me, the very fact they do not seem to come out and actually condemn the practice, rather than shrugging their shoulders about it, is skating close to tacit encouragement for practical purposes. YMMV.

                    1. re: huiray
                      mcgeary RE: huiray Apr 10, 2011 09:54 AM

                      Co-owner Nick Kokonas posts often on Next's Facebook page and has addressed this issue. He says that the team plans to craft a system that will prevent scalping, and in the meantime if they identify a scalper he/she is immediately banned from purchasing tickets. One quote:

                      "Just to be clear... if we figure out who anyone is who for sure is scalping -- ie trying to sell above face value -- we will ban the user from our system and our facebook page... and have now done so twice. As it says in the TOS -- we reserve that right :-)"

                      1. re: mcgeary
                        huiray RE: mcgeary Apr 10, 2011 10:02 AM

                        I see! Thank you for the information. Very well, according to what you say he has taken a stand, I am glad.
                        (I do not use Facebook let alone cruise Facebook pages of restaurants)

                        1. re: huiray
                          t
                          TAsunder RE: huiray Apr 11, 2011 08:56 AM

                          Also... Nick has stated at least twice that legally speaking tickets must be transferable, so they can't actually prevent the transfer, just subsequent ticket purchases.

      2. m
        mountsac RE: lmg70 Apr 8, 2011 06:50 AM

        Cool. It sucks that I haven't received the email. And seeing people who are hogging tickets to resell online just pisses me off.

        12 Replies
        1. re: mountsac
          l
          lmg70 RE: mountsac Apr 8, 2011 07:11 AM

          @mountsac: I never received my email (sweat inducing) and went directly to the site - plugged my email in and it sent me the password. See if that works. Good luck!

          1. re: lmg70
            w
            willyum RE: lmg70 Apr 8, 2011 08:01 AM

            "went directly to the site" ...

            I also haven't received the email despite signing up last year ... and worse, when I try to go to the site I get this message:

            "Browser Not Supported
            This ticketing system does not currently support Internet Explorer. You may download Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari or any other of the many excellent and free browsers available."

            Is this really true, you can't access the site w/ IE? Pretty incredible if true ...

            1. re: willyum
              t
              TAsunder RE: willyum Apr 8, 2011 09:01 AM

              Yes, it's true. They were having issues properly securing transactions in IE and weren't able to fix it in time for the release, as I understand it.

              1. re: TAsunder
                w
                willyum RE: TAsunder Apr 8, 2011 10:03 AM

                "They were having issues properly securing transactions in IE and weren't able to fix it in time for the release"

                Kind of funny ... Achatz said one reason they went to this ticketing plan is because Alinea had three people handing phone reservations whose main job was telling people there were no tables available.

                Now they are replaced by three IT guys who can't get the site working properly ... progress?

                Anyway I downloaded one of the other browsers and was able to log on ...

                -----
                Alinea
                1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                1. re: willyum
                  Heeney RE: willyum Apr 8, 2011 12:30 PM

                  Hopefully they have all the kinks out by July when they flip menus.
                  I have dinner there 2 weeks from tonight. Psyched.
                  But I'm sad that no other obsessive food nerd has posted a review and pics of the kitchen table menu. I realize they have only done two. But let's see it! I won't get it eat it. But I'd like to see what I'm missing. :)
                  Btw, who the heck is paying $700-$1000 for a table for 2 on craigslist? For that you can eat at Alinea!
                  I'm sure I'll love Next. But I'd be astounded if it topped my dinner at Alinea last year.

                  -----
                  Alinea
                  1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                  1. re: Heeney
                    l
                    lmg70 RE: Heeney Apr 8, 2011 01:47 PM

                    Having never eaten at Alinea - I can't compare. But I think the experience at NEXT will be very different for you. This isn't about molecular or all the senses being enticed - it really is an "era" piece and you feel like you have been transported to another time. For me, dinner at NEXT was a totally unique experience.

                    -----
                    Alinea
                    1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                    1. re: lmg70
                      Heeney RE: lmg70 Apr 8, 2011 02:13 PM

                      I don't doubt that. I'm thrilled about getting to go.
                      Did you get a peek at Aviary? I am hoping they are open by the 22nd so we can grab some pre-dinner cocktails. :)

                      1. re: Heeney
                        m
                        ms. mika RE: Heeney Apr 8, 2011 02:59 PM

                        Apparently Aviary will be open by the 13th...

                        http://chicago.grubstreet.com/2011/04...

                        1. re: Heeney
                          l
                          lmg70 RE: Heeney Apr 8, 2011 03:29 PM

                          even though aviary wasn't open -- i opted for the non-alcohol pairing at NEXT and the selections were really interesting. A ginger, elderflower, pineapple ale was the best of the bunch..

                          1. re: lmg70
                            Heeney RE: lmg70 Apr 8, 2011 03:36 PM

                            Very cool. My wife went with the non-alcoholic to see what it was like. I opted for wine.

                            1. re: lmg70
                              Heeney RE: lmg70 Apr 12, 2011 01:53 PM

                              Can you tell me how long the dinner lasted? Our reservation is at 8:15. So I am guessing we'll probably be leaving at 10:30 or so?

                              1. re: Heeney
                                l
                                lmg70 RE: Heeney Apr 12, 2011 01:58 PM

                                We were there for about 2.5 hours.. And, not sure if this the norm, but if it is it's kind of brilliant -- since there is no check presented to you (remember, all is prepaid when you buy your tickets) there really isn't a closure. So, when the meal is wrapped up and you seem to be done with the coffee, the hostess comes by and asks if you'd like to see the kitchen. When you agree and get up to get the tour, the table is quickly cleared and the next service is being set..

                                Again, not sure if this will always be like that -- but it was kind of a cool way to tell people "time to go."

            2. b
              BigE RE: lmg70 Apr 12, 2011 07:39 AM

              No idea why I didn't snap on this right away like everyone else, but is it still possible to get on the fabled e-mail list?

              Do I just send my e-mail to "tickets@..."?

              2 Replies
              1. re: BigE
                t
                TAsunder RE: BigE Apr 12, 2011 07:47 AM

                No; it will open to the general public in may.

                1. re: BigE
                  nsxtasy RE: BigE Apr 12, 2011 07:56 AM

                  No, that's not how. They had the ability to add your e-mail address to the list on their website at www.nextrestaurant.com

                  I doubt that they will be taking more names for quite a while, considering that they only made their way partway through the 22,000 addresses on their list.

                2. huiray RE: lmg70 Apr 15, 2011 06:29 PM

                  Pictures, from a preview dinner:
                  http://chicago.eater.com/archives/201...
                  Doesn't look like much food. I think that meal would leave me still pretty hungry at the end.

                  Choose your side:
                  http://chicago.eater.com/archives/201...
                  http://chicago.eater.com/archives/201...

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: huiray
                    t
                    TAsunder RE: huiray Apr 18, 2011 07:57 AM

                    The duck press and gratin look like a full entree to me. I imagine I'd be full but not overly full.

                    If the guy was taking photos with flash and continued after being asked to stop, then I am 100% behind Achatz on this one. Some clues in his posting make me think this is the case, but it could also be a case of mistaken identity (accusing the wrong person).

                    1. re: TAsunder
                      huiray RE: TAsunder Apr 18, 2011 10:01 AM

                      Not sure the pressed duck and gratin dishes shown in the pictures were for a single diner. The Hors d'Oeuvres plate seems to show servings for 4 diners (e.g. 4 egg cups, etc) so it seems to me that the duck and gratin dishes could be for the whole table (i.e. for 4 diners) to share? If they WERE for a single diner then that would be better in terms of satisfying my appetite although the gratin dish isn't large at all if you compare it with those wine glass bases you can see in that picture.

                      Can someone who has eaten there clarify please? Thanks.

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